The Ford Motor Company deserves credit, for being the only American car manufacturer for not accepting government bailout funds. While they haven’t been making huge profits during this difficult economic period, they’ve approached the changing markets with newer, and much more exciting products than many of their competitors are. For instance, their basic “point A to point B” Focus is a reasonably priced car, that delivers high reliability, and has some neat technological toys to offer consumers a more entertaining commute. The Fusion is one of the most reliable cars on the road, and one of the few American made vehicles to get a recommendation from “Japan Friendly” Consumer Reports. There’s a hybrid version of that car, and the new Taurus is an exciting addition to their lineup. They brought back the name of one of their previous best sellers, and the SHO version delivers screaming acceleration to a family type of four door sedan.
At our workplace, we’ve recently received a couple of new 2010 Ford Escapes. They are replacing our aging fleets of Explorers, that now have over 200,000 miles on them, and have spent more time on the shop than the actual road. I thought this was going to be a mistake, because as a tall person, the Explorer seemed like a more comfortable fit. Yet I was surpised as I’ve been driving the Escape for over a week now, as its front end room is simply amazing. In fact, its one of the most long legged friendly SUV’s I’ve spent time behind the wheel with, and the motorized driver seat allows you to back up to a proper position in seconds. The steering wheel is adjustable as well, and I really appreciate the effort putting into designing seats that offer support but allow for comfort. They are soft yet strong, and the materials over previous Escapes has been a major upgrade. The cloth will take a lot of abuse, and a huge improvement over the Explorers.
Unfortunately, the back seats are meant for those less than six feet tall. In fact, they might be appropriate for children only. You can fit three people in the backseats, but they had better be children or very small statured adults. Even sitting in the backseats with the front ones up close to the dash, left me feeling cramped. My knees actually were digging into the back of the front seats, and I had to place my feet underneath them. For a young family on a budget, this might make sense, but when the kids grow, you will probably have to deal with their complaints with this issue. However, the materials on the bench seat are improved. Instead of the flat cloth, there are now ridges, that do allow for more comfortable seating. Unfortunately, your legs are going to groan on any trip further than fifteen minutes.
The 2.5 four cylinder engine delivers unnaceptable performance. If you are going to buy an Escape, pay a couple of thousand dollars extra for the 3.0 six cylinder one. It takes a lot of effort for this engine to get up to highway speeds when merging, and going up hills you can hear it strain. Its a loud, thrashy type of engine, and while it might improve your gas mileage, it just doesn’t deliver enough horses to justify the small amount of savings at the pump. Once it does get up to fifth gear speed, it does pick up the pace a bit, but if you have a full load you will most certainly move at a snail’s pace. There’s also a lot of windnoise, but even this doesn’t get in the way of the loud engine that cries out for mercy.
As for handling, this is one of the best smaller SUV’s. It has an incredible turning radius, so you can make a quick u-turn without any problems. It’s car like handling will appeal to many, and I do give it credit on how it takes curvy roads and holds on while being thrown through them. The overall ride is very secure, and I was impressed by how little effort steering requires. While loose steering can be an issue with some vehicles, its just right here, and its a fine ride in both city and on the interstates. You can park it in the smallest of parking spots with ease, and blind spots are minimal. Braking is excellent, and this is one consideration that I consider important, as you can’t put a premium on safety.
The heating and a/c controls are huge knobs, that are easy to reach, and the stereo system is average at best. You can program plenty of stations, but it seems that Ford skimped a bit on costs by delivering a poor audio performance. You can upgrade the base edition for some extra cash, and if this is a vehicle you want, I would recommend doing that as the included one just doesn’t cut the mustard. If you drive in snowy areas, you might also want to pay extra for 4×4, as the front wheel drive model I’ve been driving is just adequate in inclement weather. It had issues in snow over 6″, and while that might be acceptable for a sedan, a SUV should do a little bit better than that.
You can get a base Escape for around $19,000-$21,000. They are readily available at most Ford dealerships, and are a lot cheaper than offerings from their competitors. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shortcomings with this vehicle, and I’m just not that impressed. The engine performance and lack of back seat room leave a lot to be desired. If you are a single person, or don’t want children, this might be fine for road trips with the dog in the backseats or storage area just behind them. Otherwise, consider something a bit bigger, because while the Escape does give you a basic SUV for a low price, there are better products out there to consider.